Spin Cycle: Goodbye, little bastard

Ah, yikes.

Jonny Long
by Jonny Long 15.05.2023 Photography by
Cor Vos and the fellas over at unsplash dot com, of course
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The Spin Cycle is the Escape Collective’s news digest, published every Monday and Friday. You can read it on this website (obviously) or have it delivered straight to your inbox. You can sign up here.


Welcome back to Spin Cycle! The Escape Collective’s news digest.

Everything was looking so great and then Remco Evenepoel left the Giro d’Italia. We may still end up having a stonking race, but it will forever be tainted by his absence – like getting mid-way through a delicious meal and then finding a hair in it.

We don’t want to get bogged down in sadness, however, so have found some little bits and pieces to take our minds off it this rest day. We’re also very ready for this edition of the newsletter to immediately become dated when a bunch of other riders test positive too and Bauke Mollema wins the whole thing by virtue of being the only rider left standing.

What’s in the box?

We’ve watched this maybe 10 times in a row and still can’t figure out what’s going on. There is an empty box and Andreas Leknessund has to hold it. Maybe the contents is the rest of the top 10 on GC come stage 21? Maybe these hint at how COVID-19 will be dealt with for the rest of this race, and every rider will be quarantined in a box inside a box inside another box?

Goodbye, little bastard

We really enjoyed Geraint Thomas coining his ‘little bastard’ nickname for Remco Evenepoel, which he’s also previously used to describe Tadej Pogačar, and really there is no better way for the aging stars of the sport to describe these upstarts.

It was a shock for all cycling fans when they heard the news late on Sunday night that the race leader had been forced to withdraw due to a COVID-19 positive. Geraint Thomas said he was shocked too, and had received a message from Evenepoel prior to the announcement just to give the Welshman a bit of warning.

During a rest day press conference, Thomas said that he initially thought Evenepoel was just trying to wind him up, presumably the ‘little bastard’ moniker has sent the Ineos rider into a tailspin and now believes him capable of all dastardly tricks. Especially after Primož Roglič has been joking/not joking to Thomas that he’s currently got COVID-19, a gag that has aged like milk sat in the window of a team bus on a clear day.

While he was talking on his day off, Thomas echoed everyone’s thoughts, that Evenepoel’s departure was sad for the race. However, Evenepoel won a Grand Tour stage while being positive for coronavirus, maybe the only rider to have ever done such a thing.

Also, some more Ts & Ps for Remco, who almost immediately after the news of his Giro exit broke, was already being talked about in terms of a potential Tour participation next month. The lad really never gets a break.

Feed Zone ?

? UAE Team Emirates’ Jan Polanc has retired with immediate effect following irregularities during routine cardiac scans in the winter of 2022.

?? Greg Van Avermaet won the Boucles de l’Aulne-Châteaulin at the weekend, his first victory since September 2019 and, perhaps coincidentally, the first since announcing his retirement. Go Greg, who needs that gold helmet now, huh?

? Puck Pieterse and Tom Pidcock emerged victorious from the opening round of the mountain bike World Cup cross-country round in Nové Město.

?️ The fifth and final stage of the Tour of Hungary was neutralised due to bad weather and the resulting slippery roads. UAE Team Emirates’ Marc Hirschi was therefore confirmed as the overall winner with Ineos Grenadiers’ Ben Tulett second.

?️ Kobe Goossens and Laurenz Rex have extended with Intermarché-Circus-Wanty until the end of 2025.

? Bad news for Demi Vollering: she lost her undefeated streak and overall title at Itzulia Women on Sunday. Good news: she did it on purpose, with SD Worx teammate Marlen Reusser taking the final stage and GC.

? Today (May 15) is the last day without any UCI races for SIX weeks. (h/t Cillian Kelly).

? After a deal to return to work at UAE Team Emirates could not be worked out, Allan Peiper will instead become a consultant for Jayco-AlUla.

? Stefan Küng has left the Giro d’Italia; he doesn’t have COVID-19 but he’s sick of ‘little bastards’ with coronavirus beating him in time trials, so he’s going home. (Also because he wants to prepare for his other goals this season and the only time trial left in Italy is very uphill).

Over My Head (Cable Car)

A very Giro video this. We’ll get onto some more unfortunate foreshadowing later on, but riders having to travel down from stage 8’s Campo Imperatore finish packed into cable cars with members of the public sort of set the tone for the coronavirus positives to come. Of course, this particular coronavirus spike seems limited to the riders and teams, so it’s not like this particular organisational piece is to blame for this increasingly lurgy-looking puzzle.

On the flip side, Ineos Grenadiers’ ultra-safe pandemic-stormtrooper chic bodes well for them going the distance, a fair price to pay for looking so goofy in those orange hoods, and good on all the riders who’ve been pro-active in not spreading anything to anyone else in the peloton or to the ordinary folks who presumably spent the whole ride off the mountain gawping at them from only a few inches away.

We don’t like to be those ‘cycling, mad isn’t it’ types too often but we’ll make an exception here, as what’s gone on is equivalent to getting the metro home sat next to Lionel Messi after he’s walloped in a free kick at Le Parc des Princes.

? Caption competition ?

Some good suggestions in the replies to the tweet already, but what do you imagine Mark Cavendish is shouting into the race director’s vehicle? Suggestions in the comments please.

Just LOOK at that hat.

? Patrick Lefevere tempting fate and it coming back to bite him almost immediately quote of the week ?

“Bam, Remco Evenepoel. And can everyone calm down now please.”

Soudal Quick-Step kingpin Patrick Lefevere tweeted his celebration of Remco Evenepoel’s stage 9 TT win following his slight slipping on stage 8, and the calm he asked for lasted less than five hours when his rider was withdrawn from the race. As we’ve already made clear above, Evenepoel’s abandon is very sad but if we’re going to take any silver linings from it it’s Big Bad Pat putting his (maybe un-socked) foot in it once again.

Cycling on TV ?


Giro d’Italia, Stage 10

4 Days of Dunkirk, Stage 1


Giro d’Italia, Stage 11

4 Days of Dunkirk, Stage 2


Giro d’Italia, stage 12

4 Days of Dunkirk, Stage 3

Circuit de Wallonie


Giro d’Italia, stage 13

4 Days of Dunkirk, Stage 4

Americans can check out our full guide on how to watch bike racing in the US here.

? Outstanding commitment to press freedom of the week award ?

Let us preface this with saying that there is nothing worse and less satisfying to read about than journalists complaining about journalism problems and then let us completely forget about that and carry on regardless.

Congrats to Kim Jong-Jumbo-Visma who held a Giro d’Italia rest day press conference and invited exactly one (1) reporter along to ask questions of Primož Roglič, who currently lies second overall in the general classification. We’re not directing our ire at the reporter in question, but this is not the first time Jumbo-Visma have pulled this sort of stunt and to be completely honest dat is zo niet cool, fellas.

You may be inclined to argue that they can do as they please, as its their team and their riders, but not only are big press conferences a good and healthy tradition in cycling, but limiting access harms the whole environment. Maybe the big teams don’t think they need any other media apart from TV, but smaller races and teams are more reliant on any press they can get and the big teams need competitors around to race against.

Sorry it got a bit serious there, all we ask is that Jumbo-Visma to give their heads a bit of a wobble. They were very gracious when all that unsavoury stuff was going down with us lot at the end of last year and reached out to ask if they could help in any way, and things like this are exactly what helps everyone thrive.

And finally …

We are fans of when smaller teams win big bike races, and especially a team like EOLO-Kometa, principally because they are sponsored by Kometa, one of Hungary’s largest pork-processing companies, and we pine for the days when teams were sponsored by real, tangible things (even if we’re still trying to get over the fact that the Burger King logos on their bums have disappeared).

Anyway, the one downside to EOLO-Kometa taking big victories is we have to sit through overly pronounced celebrations from team co-manager Alberto Contador. First, there was the racket he made when Lorenzo Fortunato won the Zoncolan stage a few years back – yes, a huge win for a ProTeam, but we’ll just say whatever Alberto is on, we want some too.

Then above, as Davide Bais tore away to win stage 7, his co-commentators had to deal with his fist-thumping interruptions as they tried to stay focused on calling the stage victory. Maybe we’re being too harsh, but all we’re saying is we’d just believe his reaction a bit more if it wasn’t contaminated by the fact he’s doing it live on Instagram.

Corrections corner ?️?

In Friday’s edition all of the mountain bike races had the wrong names. Clearly, we couldn’t see the racing from the actual trees. We will do better next time and ask an adult for help.

Until next time …

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